Article #42: E-tabs

Tim Macer looks at what the latest version of report archiving software E-tabs has to offer

The new easier


A new version of E-tabs is out: the first since coming under new ownership, it sports a streamlined, simplified interface, better web support and a new 'lite' version aimed at end-users.
E-tabs (which used to be the ITE Electronic Fiche) provides paperless handling of lengthy MR reports and crosstabs by creating compact archive files called E-books. A highly functional browser allows end-users to examine E-books and offers equally good support as an archiving tool as well as a means of distributing reports on CD-ROM or via the Internet. It has become a standard in its field for paperless report handing, with some 200 agencies using the tool throughout Europe and the US to distribute or archive reports as E-books. Over 6000 copies of the E-tabs reader are in use.
Mars Confectionery made imaginative use of E-tabs when an initiative to cull 25% of filing cabinets from offices encouraged the market research department to look at novel solutions. By switching from paper to E-tabs to archive bulky market research reports Sue Burden, MR Manager at Mars, comfortably achieved the desired target and created a more pleasant working environment for her team. She found E-tabs also overcame the problem of getting very large paper-based reports out to their many offices around Europe. 'Particularly in our smaller offices, we can't afford to have the paper tables taking up six feet of shelf space. This meant people did not have any access to the data beyond the basic presentation charts. E-tabs is a very useful tool for us.'
Millward Brown in the UK also turned to E-tabs to reduce its internal use of paper and make back-copies of reports more accessible to its staff by converting these to HTML pages on the company's intranet. The initiative has proved highly successful, dramatically reducing the quantity of tables being provided to researchers on paper. To view the electronic copy, all researchers have to do is go to the intranet, find the relevant volume and view it using a web browser.
E-tabs pros and cons
Pros Supports all major MR packages
Simple 'lite' reader is now free
Same interface on web and in 'lite' reader
New macro language for power users
Cons 'Pro' reader interface over-complex in places
Must install software for end-users if 'pro' functionality required

Click for full size image

The new E-tabs 'lite' includes a total rewrite of the interface, giving it a much more Windows look and feel

But in its five years of existence, additions to the basic functionality had left the 'reader' interface looking chaotic and somewhat daunting to the new user, detracting from its ease of use. It is good to see that the new E-tabs 'lite' includes a total rewrite of the interface. This sensibly brings together items that were scattered between several screens into one relatively uncluttered main screen. Wizards now step you through basic tasks and items such as dockable toolbars give it a much more standard Windows look and feel. Importantly, tables now resize and rescale themselves in the browser, making it much easier to view data on screen. It is a big improvement, though it is a pity that the makeover has not yet reached the 'pro' version, where some of the obscurer features such as the multiple clipboard and user-created lists, require much patience to master. A 'pro' version following the same design is promised in a future release.
For high-volume users, a new macro language means you can now automate most routine production activities. The 'publisher' utility also benefits from a new interface, a wizard, and an end to cryptic DOS commands.
The most interesting development is the parallel release of a free 'lite reader' and an Active-X plug-in for web browsers, offering the same reduced set of features and neatly solving the problem of overcomplexity for occasional users. The web-browser plug-in shares the same look and feel, giving you proper control of the screen, unlike the previous HTML-based browser it replaces.

Jennifer McAllister, a manager in Millward Brown's DP department, is delighted to see the new 'lite' reader, which she is currently evaluating. 'We like the simplicity of the 'lite' reader compared with the 'professional' browser - it's a lot more user friendly. Internally we look at all our reports via our Intranet. The future release of the web plug in version of the 'lite' reader will provide us with the additional functionality which is lacking on standard web browsers."
Sue Burden sees potential in being able to publish reports on a website using E-tabs and the new web browser incorporated in the actual web page. 'I see this as very useful in publishing information, especially for the people in marketing and in our client base as not everyone has E-tabs installed. The advantage is you do not even need to have the software.'
As a solution that allows you to get much more from your research data and get it out to a wider audience, as well as being compatible with all the main MR packages, the latest advances in this useful program should establish E-tabs as the Adobe Acrobat of quantitative market research.


Tim Macer writes as an independent specialist in software for market research. His website is at

Published in Research, the magazine of the Market Research Society, June 2000, Issue 409.

© Copyright Tim Macer/Market Research Society 2000. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.

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